American WTA players ride home-court advantage as San Diego Open kicks off

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US players dominated the first day of main-draw play at the San Diego Open. The only two Americans so far who will not advance, Alison Riske-Amritraj and Sofia Kenin, lost at the hands of ones who did, Louisa Chirico and Coco Vandeweghe.

Danielle Collins
Danielle Collins

Madison Keys defeated Ellen Perez 6-1 6-4. After the match, the world No.18 American was asked about the draw, which has her playing the winner of Kasatkina versus Fernandez next. Keys laughed, “it’s so tough […] I barely made the cut at 17 and was like, ‘ah, it’s one of those weeks.'” Keys’ only prior match she remembered from San Diego, was getting beaten by Taylor Townsend in a junior tournament. Keys recounted the defeat in a joking tone of resentment as she pointed toward the court where it happened. Despite the childhood bitterness bubbling to the surface, she spoke positively of the experience on center court now, saying “even today you know on Monday at 11:30 we had a pretty good crowd and I think people just really enjoy tennis here.”

Coco Vandeweghe defeated Sofia Kenin 6-1 1-6 6-4. The world No.143 grew up in the San Diego area and could rattle of dozens of junior tournaments she played at the Barnes Center, which she described as a “Mecca for junior tennis.” As the American returns to playing more WTA tour-level main draws, this tournament is special. Vandeweghe explained, “I love playing at home, I mean the atmosphere, I get my friends and family to come out and watch. They don’t get to see me play that often, so it’s great to be home.” She faces fellow American Jessica Pegula next.

Pegula had a bye in the first round but got to the site early enough to acclimate and practice match play. The world No.6 said, “you can’t really beat the setting, the weather so nice, right? I like the courts, I like the balls. I think it’s like a medium-fast pace. So far so good.” She has the WTA Finals in her sites as well, ranked third in the Race to the Finals.

Unsure of her own qualification status and appearing to try for some quick math in her head, Pegula told the media, “I’m really excited to play the year-end finals. Definitely always been a goal.” The 28-year-old added that it would be particularly exciting to play the finals in the US both in singles and doubles, with her partner Coco Gauff who is also expected to qualify in singles, currently third in the race.

Caroline Garcia
Caroline Garcia

Danielle Collins defeated seventh seed Caroline Garcia 6-2 7-6(4). Like other Americans in the draw, Collins remembered enjoying junior tournaments at the site, but could not remember any specifics. The world No.19 said, “I have the worst memory. If you went back in the last couple of months and ‘you’re like who did you beat?’ I’d have a hard time.” While she feels the sting of defeat after a tough match, her ability to move on quickly has served her productively as she refuses to dwell on a loss, “I think I do have a little bit of a short-term memory. I try to just like let things go […] I feel like I just have a pretty good balance because there are other things I’m focused on outside of the tennis and that helps me a lot.”

Aryna Sabalenka
Aryna Sabalenka playing an exhibition match

In a break from the center court action late in the afternoon, Aryna Sabalenka played an exhibition match with musician Pete Wentz, frontman for the band Fallout Boy. The event was to benefit the Rady Children’s Hospital.

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